Mental Health during COVID-19

Hamish Stuart 19 March, 2021

Given that we are entering the twelfth month of this pandemic in Australia, I believe it is important we continue to practise what we preach. I am guilty of putting my mental health last when times get busy and tough. What is reassuring, but scary at the same time, is that I'm not alone in this. Studies are reporting a decline in mental health in correlation to the outbreak of COVID-19. Knowing this, it is more important than ever to proactively make changes to positively affect your workplace, as it is unclear when business will return as it was beforehand. So what can we do about it now?

As a business As an individual
- Genuine care
- Good communication
- Agree on expectations
- Provide resources regularly

- Self care
- Maintaining good health habits
- Practice mindfulness
- Utilise annual leave


As a business:

1) Genuine care – Workers are wanting their direct manager to proactively ask them how they are mentally. A direct phone call is the most effective way to do so and show you genuinely care for their wellbeing. Managers play a crucial role in addressing this mental health crisis as they are the employees’ connection to the company. However, by also building and maintaining strong team relationships, coworkers and peers will be more inclined to also reach out to those around them.


2) Good communication – Setting clear expectations and taking action to address the needs of the team is crucial to running an effective business and managing employee satisfaction. Poor communication risks a decrease in mental health of an employee. However, if done well, it is more likely to improve their mental health.


3) Agree on expectations – With working from home becoming a new norm, setting a clear understanding of expectations will positively affect productivity. Giving employees an agreed target to complete projects or assignments allows them to more effectively manage time and plan. Mutual agreement on the timeline allows for realistic expectations and no undue stress.


4) Provide resources regularly – Most likely, at the start of the pandemic you would have provided mental health resources to your employees. Do so again! Even if it is the same resource. Remind your employees that mental health and wellbeing is important and provide the solutions to obtain them.


As an individual:

5) Self care – Do something for yourself every day. Self care isn’t selfish, contrary to the little voice in your head. By focusing on your own wellbeing, we are putting ourselves in a far better position to help others. Everyone’s ‘something’ is different – some like to exercise and others socialise over a coffee, we need to find what helps us reset and recharge.


6) Maintaining good health habits – Don’t forget the main things: diet, exercise and sleep. These have huge implications for our mental health.
- Ensure you are having a balanced diet and eating the recommended fruit and vegetable servings. Food is the fuel our mind and body need to function.
- Our bodies are designed for movement, use exercise as an excuse to change your surroundings. Studies have shown a change in scenery having a positive effect on mood.
- Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night is incredibly important. Without adequate sleep we are more likely to eat high calorie foods, have poor concentration and productivity and also increase our risk of health complications.


7) Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness allows us to get better at identifying and understanding our emotions. On top of this, it also allows us to take steps to calm our thoughts and emotions to think clearly, make decisions and respond appropriately when faced with challenges or stresses. Try the free app “Smiling Mind” as an introduction to mindfulness.


8) Utilise annual leave – The volatile environment we are currently living in has led to increased stress, anxiety and depression. Annual leave is there to be taken, have a week to reset and recharge.


If you are needing help, please contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.


Da Silva, F. C. T., & Neto, M. L. R. (2020). Psychological effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in health professionals: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 110062. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2020.110062

Salari, N., Hosseinian-Far, A., Jalali, R. et al. Prevalence of stress, anxiety, depression among the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Global Health 16, 57 (2020).

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